David Mayfields previous album Good Man Down hit me like a cannonball in the guts. Being one of last years top 5 albums in my book, I played it numerous times the year it came out, and it’s still on heavy rotation.
So how do you follow one of the best albums ever released? David Mayfield “simply” makes an even better album.
I can hear you mumbling “How is that possible?”. In Mayfields case it’s quite easy. He just wrote a bunch of even better lyrics, updated his soundscape some and topped it off with not one, not two but three songs that will be challengers for the title “Song of The Year”.
And off course the most important ingredient for making beyond outstanding music: He writes about a recent breakup.
The twist though, is that he doesn’t seem to hate the other party of the breakup. The songs are heavy with self loathing and self hate, but done in a way that still shows light at the end of the tunnel. This is a realisation of disappointment in himself, but there are still gems which flicker lividly of hope and happieness.
I mentioned the soundscape. Because that’s what it really is. A landscape of sound, quite unique and at times slightly challenging. But it’s all so masterfully done, and it sounds just so right for these songs. He’s mixed rock, country, bluegrass with avantgarde and a touch of electronica – and ends up with just the right shade he envisioned.
He’s done some changes to the band, seemingly a bit saddend by the fact that he’s lost musicians to better paying gigs over the years – The David Mayfield Parade is now just David Mayfield – and they’re down to a trio of multi instrumentalists. On the album Mayfield himself plays a heap of instruments, and as Compass Records signed him after Good Man Down – he didn’t have to Kickstart this one – and could focus on the album itself.
Strangers opens with a caution. Through the song “Caution” we get a warning that we’re gonna get a ride we hadn’t quite anticipated. And with Jenny Starsnics haunting fiddle, there’s a really obvious new tone to his music.
On “Ohio” Mayfield moves the song from a dreamingly acoustic place, suddenly into a discobeat. An accident from the studio that sounded so cool he had to make it work on the album.
I mentioned “Song of The Year”. The first one to go for the title is “The Man I’m Trying To Be”.
The line “Another disappointment to the man I’m trying to be” is as brilliant as it is haunting, as he sings this song to himself, and says:
He sees me use and abuse the ones I love.
He knows when I can, and I don’t give enough.
If I were him, by now I would be ashamed of me.
Another disappointment to the man I’m trying to be.
It’s heartbreaking, it’s Mayfield turning himself inside out and letting us see what’s troubling him.
“Show” combines Starsnics fiddle with Mayfields vision, where worl music and something that could have worked as a drumsound in the late 80’s fusions into a veritable fireworks of a song. And his voice… damn. You can FEEL it shattering your bones.
In “The One I Hate” is another contender for “Song of The Years”. He opens up yet again, and let’s us into his head…
You are pretty and witty
wild but graceful.
and hard on the eyes.
And then he follows that with :
I can’t even pull off this
I’m a one man production,
of Lord of the Flies.
Mayfield then gives us four of the best lines ever up in a song. He is a master at describing emotions through song, and it’s nothing short of beautiful.
Don’t tell me you love me.
I warn you; you’ll seal our fate.
How could I love the one
who loves the one I hate.
He tears his heart open, and what shows are these final lines…
You’ve never been in my mind
It’s a sad, shallow place
where dreams go to die.
How do you follow a song like that?
You channel your inner Elvis, and mixes a thunder of percussions and drums with a wild gypsyfiddle – and send us “Rain On My Parade”. Easy.
And then… the next of the three contenders. Separate they’re in the running for “Song of The Year”. Together they are the pivotal basis for this album, the foundation that lifts this to lengendary status and beyond.
“My First Big Lie And How I Got Out Of It”. I know! You love it even before you’ve heard it. The title is nothing short of brilliant. And the song? Oh man… I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this…
Mayfield and his acoustic guitar tells us a one-sided lovestory. Not that it’s told from one side only, no – one one of the two involved were in love.
This is a final resolution to his own bad conscience, for saying “I love you” without it having any basis in real feelings, of infidelity, dishonesty and lack of care. And his voice… it’s an instrument of it’s own. So full of emotion there is no doubt he’s lived what he sings.
I could have been faithful if I tried
but I strayed away every time.
Many the strangers I’ve held through the night
I could have been faithful if I tried.
If you had been clever, you would have known
That love won’t return from a heart made of stone
You could have left here and left me alone
If you had been clever, then you might have known
“In Your Eyes” combines Appalcihan mountainmusic with a touch of rockabilly, and through a wild run on the fiddle he interprets the old saying “The eyes are the mirror of the soul”.
There’s more traditional music in “Ring Out The Old”, a soung about clearing out and starting over.
And in “Hangman” we hear parts of what made the last album special, the band is playful and improvise more than on the other songs – while still being under direction of Mayfields master plan.
Ain’t no hangman,
gonna get no rope around me
On “Face The Storm” he has captured the intensity and rythm from a major storm, and mixes it up with electronic elements and haunting guitar. David Mayfield meets past AND present face on.
The beautiful “Lazy Love” ends this album, a nostalgic look at love and a relationship that might or might not, work.
Essential Listening? You bet!
This is the best album I’ve heard so far this year. Get it at David Mayfields website or over at Compass Records. (I would personally recommend the “Don’t let a woman make a David Mayfield out of you” poster bundle, that poster is awsome)